Saturday Morning Gaming: Monster Train
It was one of those games that I played until I was sick of it and remember playing it fondly and say “I wish that I could find another game like that one!” And then I get a game that sells itself as being like Slay the Spire. And it’s not as good as Slay the Spire.
So I picked up Monster Train.
And it’s not as good as Slay the Spire.
But I’m playing a lot of it.
Here’s the basic story: The fires of Hell have gone out. You’re on a train that is travelling to the center of Hell to relight the fires. You’re fighting the forces of Heaven who are trying to stop you. The train has four levels. The bottom three levels of the train are the battleground. The top level is the “heart of the pyre”. Story-wise, this is the thing you’re transporting to relight the flame. Game-wise, it’s the thing that, if it gets destroyed, you lose.
With the blasphemy (no religion) out of the way, how does the game play? Well, you start with two half-decks. Half of your deck comes from one group of cards, the other half of your deck comes from another. There are five half-decks to pick two half-decks from: The Hellhorned, the Awoken, the Stygian Guard, the Umbra, and the Melting Remnant.
Each has a different flavor. The hellhorned have the straightforward monsters. Big hitpoints, big damage. The Awoken have the plant monsters with special abilities like spikes that do damage to attackers, The Stygian Guard have the most monsters with “sweep” (they attack all creatures, not just the one in front), the Umbra have two types of monsters: morsels are monsters that give bonuses to monsters that eat them and monsters that eat morsels, and the Melting Remnant have monsters that are very powerful (but have a countdown timer attached… when the timer reaches zero, the monster dies).
Between the two decks, you pick which one has primacy. This gives you a Champion. Champions are your own boss monster types. Watch out, they’re fragile… but if you enhance them with armor or protect them behind other monster units, they can do a LOT of damage and be set up to defeat the level’s own boss monster.
In addition to the monsters, there are also spells associate with each deck that follow the theme of the deck. Direct damage, additional cards or mana next turn, damage that attacks a unit every turn, morsel enhancements, or spells that help with the Melting Remnant’s countdown timer.
As you play, you alternate between fight areas and areas where you choose what kind of bonuses you want. Do you want to enhance your monsters or your spells? Do you want to duplicate a card in your hand or heal hit points to your heart of the pyre? And then you get in a fight where you place your monsters in the way of the forces of Heaven that are marching to attack your heart of the pyre. Place your monsters, cast your spells, let the fight progress and then move on to the next area.
Much like Slay the Spire, you spend the first few hours with the game figuring out how to survive the first boss, then how to survive the second… but then somewhere in there you figure out not only how to survive but thrive… and then you fight the final big boss and you have to completely change how you do things all over again.
As I said, it’s not as good as Slay the Spire. But it’s not bad and it’s pleasant enough to play when you’ve got a hankering for Slay the Spire (but you can’t bear to play Slay the Spire again).
So… what are you playing?
(Featured image is Monster Train screenshot.)